Two Maps
Napoléon as Urban Planner
Louis Philippe’s Paris

Two Maps:
 
Before the Change: Paris in 1803

The Map of 1803, taken from Histoire physique, depicts Paris as it was before Napoléon I undertook his efforts at urbanization. The area around the Champs-Elysées is wild and wooded; buildings clog the area around the Jardin des Tuileries and the Place du Carrousel in the courtyard of the Château des Tuileries; there is no thoroughfare connecting the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.

In the adjacent drawing we have a view of Paris as seen from what was then the community of Montmartre, also from 1803. We look down on the Parisian basin from what was at that time a rural village. Compared to the vast and monumental Paris we see from this same spot today, the city seems small, restricted to that part of the basin, which is the location of the Old Paris.

The drawing is from the Musée Carnavalet collection, and is reproduced in Georges Cain, Les Pierres de Paris, Ouvrage orné de 133 illustrations et de 6 plans anciens et modernes (Paris: Ernest Flammarion, éditeur, 1900), 68. George Cain was the “Conservateur du Musée Carnavalet et des collections historiques de la Ville de Paris.”

 
The Tardieu Map: 1838

The Plan de Paris of Antoine Tardieu, also from Histoire physique, was drawn 35 years later during the reign of Louis-Philippe and shows that all of Napoléon’s plans—except for the North Wing of the Louvre—were completed by that time. In terms of the monumental circuit we shall be following, the city will undergo no major changes for the rest of Balzac’s lifetime.

If we enlarge the map, zooming in on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, we see that it extends only to what today is the Rond Point des Champs-Elysées. The Rond Point, at that time, formed an « étoile », a « place » with five streets radiating from it. The avenue that continued on to the Arc de Triomphe bore the name « Avenue de Neuilly. » Its terminus, the location of Napoléon’s completed Arc, was still called the Barrière de Neuilly, one of Ledoux’s tollgates.

On the map, the Place de la Concorde is called Place Louis XVI. In fact, this location, renamed Place Louis XV in 1814 and Place Louis XVI in 1823, became the Place de la Concorde again after 1830 under the July Monarchy. Since the Revolution the site had remained full of bad memories for the population. Louis-Philippe sought to remove the stigma associated with the spot by removing the statue of the king and putting in its place an « innocent » object, in this case an obelisk given to him by the ruler of Egypt. The obelisk was erected in 1831. In addition, Louis-Philippe added the statues and fountains we know today.

An interesting drawing, dated April 11, 1792 and reproduced in H. Gourdon de Genouillac, Paris à travers les siècles: Histoire nationale de Paris et les Parisiens (Paris: F. Roy éditeur, 1886), IV, 101, depicts the historical moment when what was the Place Louis XV became the Place de la Révolution. The statue of Louis XV, visible in the drawing, was torn down and replaced during the Revolution by the guillotine. We notice that the space is present but there is no evidence of today’s familiar fountains or landmarks.

The map of 1838 shows the extent of Napoléon’s north wing to the Louvre and the enlarged space of the Place du Carrousel. The Arc de Triomphe is oddly absent, which shows that maps of this time are not always accurate. Again, if we zoom in on the map at this location, we see that the Rue de Rivoli in 1838 extends only as far as the Place du Carrousel, where the clutter of streets and buildings that still separated the Château des Tuileries from the Palais du Louvre stops it. It was only under Napoléon III that this thoroughfare was continued to its present limit at the Hôtel de Ville. Another drawing from Henri de Houssanne, Paris sous Louis XVI et Paris aujourd’hui (Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie, éditeurs, 1900), 33, depicts the Rue de Rivoli looking westward toward the Place de la Concorde as it appeared in the late 19th century, post-Haussmann. The drawing is not dated, but the dress is Troisième République.


 
 
Napoléon as Urban Planner

Balzac was born in 1799. In 1800, Bonaparte assumed power as Consul. He was crowned Emperor in 1804. During his reign he undertook an ambitious plan of urbanization, which included many useful amenities. He constructed quais along the Seine, demolished buildings on bridges (a medieval holdover still evident in the 18th century), built sidewalks and sewers, instituted street numbering, and removed cemeteries and slaughterhouses to centralized locations, often outside city walls. These works, of which many have been superceded, were essential to the subsequent creation of a modern city and laid the groundwork for future expansion.

As Emperor, Napoléon provided the impetus for a number of urban renewal projects, at the time intended to enhance the monumental aspect of Paris around the Palais des Tuileries, which he inhabited. He completed none of these. His designs, however, were grandiose and essentially encompassed three important places on the modern tourist circuit: the Rue de Rivoli and the projected termination of the Tuileries-Louvre complex through the construction of a North Wing; the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile; and the Arc du Carrousel.

 
 

Louis-Philippe’s Paris: The Vision of Félix Dubin

Napoléon left his plans unfinished. Under the Restoration the works were continued and all projects (except the Left Wing of the Tuileries-Louvre complex) were completed by Louis-Philippe (1830-1848).

But what might the monumental Paris of Louis-Philippe have looked like? Official artist Félix Dubin gives us an idealized view in this 1837 watercolor of an ornamental chest. Each medallion displays a Parisian monument of the reign of Louis-Philippe. There is a special focus on Napoléon’s projects—the Arc de Triomphe, the Arc du Carrousel and the façade of the Madeleine—all brought to term by the July Monarch. Dubin was a young architect and laureate of the Prix de Rome. He set up his own studio in Paris in 1831 and was commissioned by the École des Beaux-Arts to paint the Parisian monuments in 1834. Dubin’s watercolors are remarkable for their accuracy and architectural detail. Moreover, his glossy and glittering rendition of these monuments—clean and neo-classical in aspect—reflects the mentality of the bourgeois monarch as well as the rising prosperity of the mercantile class in Paris.

The watercolors are by Félix Dubin, Paris 1837: Views of Some Monuments in Paris Completed during the Reign of Louis-Philippe I (Paris: Alain de Gourcuff, 1999).

 
 
   

 

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